Did China just figure out how to make nuclear energy safe? | DW News

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DW News published this video item, entitled “Did China just figure out how to make nuclear energy safe? | DW News” – below is their description.

Experts believe there’s a cleaner, safer and better way to harvest nuclear energy. With its newest power plant, China might be first to get there.

Scientists are very excited about an experimental reactor in Wuwei, China, and so are environmentalists. The reactor is cooled by molten salts instead of water, and instead of using uranium, like

most commercial nuclear plants, it’s fuelled by thorium. Thorium is a weakly radioactive metal that is much more abundant than uranium. It’s also not as messy, producing less waste that remains toxic for a fraction of the time.

Even in terms of safety, thorium trumps uranium. Thorium can’t cause a reactor meltdown, and it cannot be used to create nuclear weapons as easily.

So why has thorium not been used before? It has. Thorium was tried early on as fuel for nuclear power plants. But it was abandoned because it couldn’t be weaponized during the Cold War.

Catching up to uranium-fuelled plants and making thorium commercially viable would require risking a huge investment. China clearly feels it’s worth a punt. It’s confident the first commercial

plants to go online in 2030.

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  • 1 thought on “Did China just figure out how to make nuclear energy safe? | DW News”

    1. Molten salt is NOT the coolant at 700˚ C but the substance in which thorium is ‘dissolved’ to keep the nuclear reaction going (at startup there is now some uranium involved. In case of emergency this molten salt is released into a special designed emergency basin (when there is a power outage, a frozen valve will melt to get the MS streaming into the emergency basin). As opposed to conventional reactors there is no high pressure in the reactor vat so it cannot explode. There are many problems that must be solved before a MSR is running such as the corrosiveness of the process that has to be tested. Most companies involved in the development of MSR’s are thinking about building small mobile units that can produce energy for say 5 years whereafter the reactorvat is replaced by a new one. And yes, als o in this situation you need subterrain (deep underground) storage of nuclear waste, but the decay of radioactive materials in 300 years will keep this place limited. More countries should start working on this promissing technique to benefit from this ‘problem solver’. There is hope! 🙂

      Reply

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